Honoring Grief ... Intending to Heal: Grief Support Companion Training

“Healing means, first of all, the creation of an empty but friendly space where those who suffer can tell their story to someone who can listen with real attention.” Henri Nouwen

Honoring Grief…Intending to Heal is a training program for those who wish to companion the bereaved and/or are currently supporting the bereaved in various capacities. The approach of companioning serves as the foundation – the very root system in offering any modality of support to the bereaved be it as a counselor, support group facilitator, minister, pastor, social worker, hospice worker, chaplain, funeral home employee, volunteer, nurse, physician, spiritual director, friend, family member, etc. The companioning model makes a distinction between other models of treating, fixing, curing, analyzing or resolving another’s grief. Instead, companioning is “about being totally present to the mourner and even being a temporary guardian of the person’s soul.” (Wolfelt)  The invitation in companioning is to allow oneself to be vulnerable enough to “get into people’s grief buckets” (Manning) of sadness, pain, confusion, anger, relief, guilt, shame, etc. In other words, to learn to be totally present and to simply bear witness to someone’s pain without trying to take away their right and need to be in and express pain so that she/he can authentically heal. The art of companioning is deceptively easy and simple, but most find it challenging as it demands personal accountability of and tending to one’s own losses and grief, as well as being counter-intuitive, counter-intellectual and counter-western-cultural.  Its approach includes a healthy balance of head and heart, while leaning more heavily on the heart (since grief is primarily heart-based).

Components of the Companion Training Include:

  • An exploration of the companioning philosophy (applicable in serving all ages, cultures, ethnicities, and spiritual backgrounds)
  • Basic understanding of grief and its significance 
  • Connecting spirituality and grief
  • Basic understanding of healing in grief
  • Surveying the necessity of being with difficult emotions and feelings
  • Clarifying the necessity of purposeful and intentional healing
  • Learning necessary companioning skills with particular emphasis on:
      1. real presence
      2. creating and holding safe spaces
      3. the art of curiosity thru an appreciation and integration of “beginners mind”
      4. developing listening and questioning skills
  • Practical implications of using the companion model in various grief support modalities

Gatherings Will Include:

  • Presentation, Instruction, Reinforcing & Educational Activities; Small and Large Group Interaction; Meditation and Griever Friendly Rituals. Opportunities for Personal Integration

Participants Will Receive

  • Plethora of practical handouts; Certificate of completion, Continuing education units and contact hours


Presenters:  Melissa Minkley and Pete Reinl.  Tues. May 14 and May 15, 8 am–4:00 pm both days. Fee:   $195 (includes materials, meals, snacks, refreshments); $230 (overnight single room, materials, meals, snacks, refreshments), $223 (overnight double room, materials, meals, snacks, refreshments).  Please give your roommate’s name upon payment. $50 down payment is required to reserve your place.  Benet House Ministry Fund can provide financial assistance upon request. Click here to download the pre-retreat survey. Print and mail this Honoring Grief form prior to your retreat.


Healing Life Losses Staff Facilitators

Pete Reinl, CSG, is the co-founder of Healing Life’s Losses grief support services and is a grief support companion and spiritual guide. He has over 30 years of pastoral ministry experience serving in faith and secular communities, retreat centers and funeral homes. Pete’s contemplative ministry is primarily one of co-creating safe spaces of sanctuary for healing, honoring, storytelling, listening, exploring, integrating and transforming. He has spent the last fifteen years dedicated to companioning those who are in life transition due to loss, as well as training others who wish to be companions of the bereaved. His background includes certification in pastoral ministry and spiritual direction.  Having experienced several significant losses and his own life transitions, Pete brings with him a wealth of personal experience and wisdom, in addition to his professional and spiritual background in loss, grief and healing.

Melissa Minkley, MSW, CT, is the co-founder of Healing Life’s Losses grief support services and is a social worker with 25 years of experience in psychosocial oncology and bereavement counseling. She has companioned adults and children in individual, support group, workshop and retreat settings focusing on enhancing one's holistic well-being.  Her personal experience of loss has given Melissa insight into the impact grief has on individuals, families and friends. 

Ann Marie Uselmann, MSW, LCSW, is a clinical social worker with over 20 years of experience journeying with those who have significant health issues, as well as those in grief due to a variety of losses. She currently provides individual grief counseling at Ad Pacem ~ Toward Peace Counseling, in addition to working with individuals affected by cancer at Froedtert Hospital & The Medical College of Wisconsin.  She is humbled and honored to work with those struggling to make sense of what life offers. Ann Marie blends her professional training and her own life experience to provide compassionate care for the people she companions.

Register For This Retreat

Yes No

**We require a non-refundable deposit of 25% of the estimated total cost to hold your reservation at the time of confirmation of your stay. You will have an opportunity to pay this online with us at the time of your confirmation email, or to pay by check.
**Cancellation policy: We ask that you notify us if you cannot make your scheduled retreat and we will work with you to find another suitable date if possible.